Eating & Stress: Help, I eat when I’m stressed!

Eating & Stress: Help, I eat when I’m stressed!


Does a bowl of ice cream make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired. But there are better ways to deal with those emotions.

I often work with clients who identify with this problem, and maybe you do too. Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into their three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Here’s an example of how it works:

Spot the problem: Davis works full-time while raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. He turns to food for comfort when he is stressed at work or frustrated at home. He wants to learn better eating habits.

Get the facts: Davis sees a dietitian that he locates through www.dietitians.ca/find. He learns that craving food when he’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. He recognizes some of his own patterns in the information the dietitian shares with him, such as:

  • Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (his weakness is donuts)
  • Eating too much without realizing it
  • Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much

Davis learns about mindful eating as a way to manage his emotional eating habits. The dietitian tells Davis that mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. So instead of eating a whole bag of chips when he’s stressed, he can learn to be more mindful of his choice – perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack.

Mindful eating can help him become more aware of the reason why he’s eating. It will teach him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he feels full. Davis learns that with the help of a dietitian, he can become more aware of his emotional and physical responses to food. With training, he can manage his stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when he’s making food choices.

Instead of turning to comfort food, he can learn to fight stress by doing something he enjoys, such as taking his dog for a walk, playing street hockey with his kids, reading a book or cooking. Armed with apps like eaTracker, he can monitor when he eats and look for patterns with help of his dietitian.

He also finds some new recipes to try for nutritious comfort food:

 Avocado and grapefruit winter salad

 Indian spiced lentils

(You can also find all 12 feature recipes at www.NutritionMonth2017.ca).

Seek support: Davis learns that many dietitians are coaches who offer mindful eating principles during individual or group counselling sessions, and finds lots of help from his dietitian.

Do you have a food fight that you struggle with? Try the three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food and make your commitment official at www.nutritionmonth2017.ca.

Did you know that Dietitians of Canada has led Nutrition Month Campaign for more than 30 years? This blog post was adapted from materials found on the DC Nutrition Month website.

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